Friday, July 23, 2010

Did I have the words?

Deb asked...Though this has been touched on before, I want to say that I'm very disturbed that you didn't have a way to get taken seriously if you were to say "I feel uncomfortable with this man and with courtship at this time of my life. I would like to wait until I'm older and to find a man with whom I feel more personally compatible. This feeling is only getting stronger as I get to know Adam better."
Given your JOY training, did you have the words to express a sentiment like that? Would this have been treated as disrespect to your parents and/or God?

At first, I didn't. I spent most of that year of uncomfortable phone calls and forced meetings willing myself silent because I didn't want it to be even remotely possible that this was happening. I had been told most of my life that my parents would give me "guidance" and "help me discern" who the right boy was - so when it was actually happening, I kept thinking (and I know this sounds crazy) that God hadn't revealed him to me as a suitor, so my parents couldn't possibly think him to be a suitor. I was stupid and naive. I figured that by being silent, my feelings would be known.

After the "announcement", I was silent through the dinner and then I spent two days arguing with my parents. Although what you all might think of as "arguing" isn't likely what happened. I shut down that night and all of these thoughts started racing through my head. As soon as Adam's family left, I started questioning what had just happened and asking what it all meant. I told my dad that I hadn't heard from the Lord on this matter. I told him that Adam couldn't be the one God had for me because I had received no insight or message and I hadn't even prayed for Adam specifically in any fashion. Dad reminded me that I'd been instructed to pray for my future husband since I could pray and I argued that this wasn't the guy I pictured in my prayers. Dad said, and I will never forget these words, 'then perhaps you were praying with Satan in your heart and not God and your father's will on your heart?"

I went to the next group meeting in such a foul mood that it was suggested I be sent away. I won't say where but I'm sure most of you can guess. Luckily, my older brother intervened and said I just needed more time. He found the words I didn't have. I ended up promising to pray about Adam but I knew I wouldn't marry him. What I didn't know was how I was going to avoid it. The clock was ticking until my eighteenth birthday. I knew he'd propose six months before that.


  1. How terrible. Your father should not have deceived himself like that. Clearly, it was his will and not God's, isn't that a sin?

    I'm so sorry you went through that! I wish I knew you personally so that I could give you a big hug and tell you how happy I am that you found a way out.

  2. "God and your father's will"?

    Nice that Darth Daddy puts himself up there with God. Whoops, forgot the group we're dealing with here.

    Ruth, I'm so sorry you had to deal with this BS. I was always taught to trust my instincts, and I teach my children the same thing. My daughter is 7, and she knows when something isn't right. And I TRUST her to make that distinction. Ugh, with every post I want to hug you more and slap your father silly


  3. i can't believe that assertion your dad made =(. i'm so sorry ::hug::

    it's just so outlandish to even suggest that you weren't praying to God. you can't accidentally pray to satan if you are trying to pray to God.

    all of these things are outlandish that you went through. i'm so glad you found a way out of marrying this guy!


  4. "Dad said, and I will never forget these words, 'then perhaps you were praying with Satan in your heart and not God and your father's will on your heart?"

    Of course he said that (not surprising at all) because when all logic fails, just bring out the "Satan card" and it fixes everything - NOT! Thank you for letting us know what happened, Ruth. Not surprising at all that your dad acted like that. Not all young women are ready to get married at that age anyways (most of them are not), but that never stopped them before, so that's a moot point for the "Umbrella of Protection" patriarchs. I am still applauding you for getting out of that trap that was being set for you, Ruth. Hard to believe that this system goes on in America, the "land of the free."

  5. Wow, that's awful! How bizarre that he implied you were praying to the wrong entity. And I thought it was bad when my mom wanted me to agree to date a guy because she wanted me to "be nice to him." That lesson got me 3.5 years with a boyfriend I really didn't like, and who nearly ruined my life.

  6. Blaming you for not praying to God, and instead saying you prayed with Satan in your heart?! Really?? That's not "guidance"; it's spiritual abuse. Ruth, I haven't been reading your blog for very long, but I am SO glad you were able to get away from all that! I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it was for you.

  7. No. I can't guess where. And it's probably been stated/mentioned/hinted in other entries, but I'm so horrified that I can't recall. Could another commenter fill me in, please?

    Ruth, am popping another few bucks in the tip jar. Please use them for something indulgent and selfish because you DESERVE a selfish indulgence. You are the most amazing person; never forget that.

  8. probably the closet :(

  9. Ruth, your narrative has really confirmed to me that in many cases ATI is not one big cult but many little ones, with each familial patriarch setting himself up next to God. What really horrifies me about this story (and correct me if I'm misreading) is that it sounds like you believed - you believed in God, you believed in humility and a listening heart, you believed that God had a plan and that that plan could be revealed through prayer.

    I only know your side of the story, but what it sounds like, honestly, is that your father didn't. Your father believed that God's will was his will; your father didn't feel the need to humble himself to much of anyone or anything.

    I am not a doctrinal Christian - I believe in the universalist heresy and a couple of others - but I do believe that the enduring lesson of the Gospels is of the power of humility and self-sacrifice. And the ATI patriarchs certainly seem to believe in the power of humility and self-sacrifice- for other people. Let the women crucify their bodies and walk humbly with their God; the men, well, they want a sandwich, a horse ranch, and to be treated as God's own spokesman in their homes.

    Icky. Thank you for this story, and please correct me if my interpretation is wrong - I just am trying to put the picture together. Please continue to let us know if there is any way we can help without violating your privacy.

  10. Jenn~ if I remember correctly, there is an ATI camp for 'severe disobedience.' I'm not sure that is what Ruth means, but that is what I took it to mean.


  11. That's astounding. I suppose the ATI version of He's Just Not That Into You would be She's Just In League With Satan.

    It's striking from a historical and theological perspective that the Protestant Reformation rejected the Church's claim to interpret God's will for the people as a transparent power grab, insisting that individuals could do the same for themselves. Now we see the Patriarchy recreating the Catholic Church's argument in miniature, where Dad is really the final earthly authority and sole diviner of the True Will of God.

  12. I'm very disturbed that your old man would put his will as equal with God's in terms of your prayer life. That's a very disturbing position for him to take because without a doubt he has made himself equal to God. At the end of the day, we are all subject to God's will. This includes the head of household.

    What your father seems to believe is not the traditional Christian position on headship. The historical Christian position is that husband/father is head of the household and like everyone else in the family is subject to God's will alone. The danger in Darth Daddy's position is that if his will is equal to God's he can then trump God and demand that his wife and children commit acts of sin. So for example, he could order his kids to rob a bank and they would have no choice but to do it because it's Darth Daddy's will. This is a complete perversion of covenant headship.

    What I would like to know is whether the Darth Daddy position (his will is equal to God's) is the formal teaching of ATI or whether it is an extreme interpretation accepted only by a handful of extremist families. Is this position specifically the position of Gothard or have some of his followers gone to extremes and/or bastardized what Gothard actually teaches.

  13. From my understanding, Daddy's word is law within the patriarchy movement. It is an extreme perversion of Christianity.

  14. Thanks for your eloquent answer. As someone who grew up with liberal/egalitarian religion, I've often thought about what having a religiously ordained sense of entitlement like your father's does to people, especially naturally difficult people. I know that my father is generally well-meaning and cares a lot about his family. At the same time, he's very demanding, egocentric, and quick to get hurt or angry. I'm about your age, and my dad and I have a decent relationship now, but that's because the wrath of dad (usually) doesn't come down when I assert my right to be my own person. Also, when he does show controlling behavior, I and other people in my family do not treat it as though it's appropriate. I can only imagine that if we treated his word as divinely ordained law, my dad might look a whole lot like yours.

  15. I can only answer as to what Ive seen within the cult, Publius.

    Yes, the idea that Dad is equal to God as far as the kids were concerned was well taught and accepted by all of the ATIA families I knew, including my own.

    Ill be quite blunt.
    Every last ATIA family I knew parented like what is being described here.

    As for Mr. Gothards teachings being bastardized...he is well aware of the issues his teaching create and does nothing that Ive seen to correct or even to address the problems.
    I can only surmise that his silence lends itself to approval of such heavy handed, hate filled parenting practices.

    That is my opinion, though, and everyone has one, right?


  16. I have seen this Daddy's will=God's will in almost all of the homeschooling fundamentalist I have met. Even the ones unaffiliated with ATI. Patriarchy and Complementarianism are the status quo in the conservative Christian world. ATI just takes these ideas to the next level and puts them on steroids.

  17. I'm very disturbed that your old man would put his will as equal with God's in terms of your prayer life.

    I don't know if it's even necessary for Darth Daddy to consciously, explicitly put his will on par with God's. It's just that he's appointed himself as the final arbiter of interpreting God's will, so when Ruth says she feels guided in another direction, she must be wrong if not actively consorting with The Enemy. Naturally he never questions why "God's Will" so neatly coincides with his own desires - to him that's just another sign of his own righteousness.

  18. Rachel, I believe in patriarchy but I don't believe my will is equal with God's. At the end of the day, I'm responsible for leading my family spiritually, financially and otherwise. But for me to declare that my will is equal with God's, such would be evil and contrary to what scripture says my role and duties in my family are.

    I don't know that I'm convinced that everyone in the ATI movement takes Darth Daddy's extreme position. I will say that Jenny has a good point that Gothard in the least knows that certain families have taken his teachings to the extreme and he's done nothing to correct or clarify his position. At least we know of no correction since I assume none of us attend ATI conferences.

    DaveL said the following which I found interesting "It's just that he's appointed himself as the final arbiter of interpreting God's will..." This is the problem with home churches whether we're talking about ATI or some other group. Scripture teaches that it is of no private interpretation, meaning that at the end of the day it is the responsibility of the church to interpret scripture. That doesn't mean individuals can't read and interpret scripture for themselves, it just means that the church is given the duty to determine the proper interpretation. Well, if you do church at home then dad is suddenly the final interpreter. And suddenly the verse about private interpretation is rendered meaningless.

    I find the church of Darth Daddy and other home churches a complete disgrace in the United States. We aren't China or certain African countries where Christians are persecuted. There is no need for home churches here. And yet these control freaks remove themselves from the visible church and hide away in their living rooms on the Sabbath. ATI is responsible for a lot of this but home churches are by no means limited to ATI folks.

  19. Publius~
    I should have been more clear with my comments. I know that there are many believers who believe as you do without doing what Daddy Darth is doing. I really draw a line between what you outline and the "patriarchy movement" as taught by Gothard and others like him. Whether or not Gothard intends for the Daddy Darth behavior to be the norm can be debated.

  20. Rachel and Publius-

    Unfortunately, what Ruth's father is doing is not at odds with traditional Patriarchal teaching. In our modern times, whether or not we admit it, Biblical interpretation has been softened by our modern understanding of science, the nature of man, and morality. Most orthodox believers today are influenced by our modern culture. I thinks this is a good thing. The Bible is full of misogyny and violence. In Biblical times these things were ingrained in the culture. As a species, most of us have evolved beyond the acceptance of Bronze Age ideas of morality.

    Even soft Patriarchal teachings, tempered by modern ideas can lead to terribly unfortunate situations for women. If you get a man with emotional or psychological problems, Patriarchy can give him an excuse for his behavior.

    Egalitarianism is the only way to create a fair and just culture, both at home and in the church.


  21. Well Maryk, what you are presenting isn't from scripture and as a Christian I have no choice but to reject it. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The notion that modern understanding of science somehow negates what scripture has to teach about the Christian home is absurd. Scripture does not teach a socialist egalitarian society. The only thing all mankind is equal in is our fallen nature.

    Likewise, scripture also doesn't teach the absurd form of patriarchy that Darth Daddy and perhaps ATI teach. A husband/father is not equal with God, his will is not equal with God.

    The Christian faith has always been a protection for women throughout its history. The Christian faith, unlike other major religions or pagan faiths, offers women freedom and sanctuary in the church. Women have the ability to go to the church for protection against a wicked husband. The church has historically provided for widows.

    This is why I find the home church movement within ATI so disturbing. When church is at home, there is no ability for a wife to seek protection from the church. So when Darth Daddy declares his will equal with God's, there is nowhere for his wife or children to go in protest of that declaration. After all, he is the church. In a traditional covenant keeping church, a wife or child has the ability to protest to the church if a husband/father is committing sin in the household or ordering them to commit sin.

    These protections for women are unheard of in most of the world and have been unheard of outside of the Christian world for most of the time since creation. Modern feminism likes to gloss over the historical protections the church has offered women by whining about patriarchy. But patriarchy has never been and will never be absolute in the traditional church as it appears to be in Ruth's family.

  22. Publius,

    I agree that home churches are much more dangerous due to a lack of any oversight. However, I have known several women who went to their pastors at Orthodox Presbyterian churches to report physical abuse by their husbands. All of these women were given the same basic spiel that they were not submitting joyfully to their husband's authority and that their questioning of some of their husband's decisions was not Biblical. One was told that she needed to lose weight if she wanted to please her husband. Another was told that she was allowed to question any decision she disagreed with one time and then to never mention it again. Her husband ended up foreclosing on their home due to a bad financial decision that the wife was opposed to. She had an MBA and was a CPA before becoming involved in their legalistic church. He had a BA in theology from a fundamentalist college. Sometimes the church does not offer sound advice or good protection. It all depends on the church.

    I also agree that Christianity was way ahead of it's time in offering women freedom and protection. I just think those freedoms and protections have expanded over the last 2000 years. Women can now vote, own property, receive an education and much more. This is due to both Christian and secular activism. Most of the suffragettes thought of themselves as Christians.

    The kind of Egalitarianism I was referring to is not Socialism. It is gender equality based on the principle that men and women are created equal and should be able to pursue whatever goals they have in life unencumbered by their sex.

  23. I find it hard to believe that an OPC church is telling women to lose weight, stop complaining and so on. The OPC is hardly legalistic, they're incredibly tame. That said, just because some in the church have improperly counseled women and/or ruled incorrectly doesn't prove that the original principles are wrong. The Bible is full of examples of men committing sin and gaining forgiveness through Christ.

    Egalitarianism is almost always codeword for socialism. God has created us equal in terms of our original sin and in terms of His ability to save our souls. But that doesn't mean the Lord didn't create different roles for men and women. It doesn't mean that He didn't create different roles for the sexes at home or in church. I think scripture is fairly clear on the different roles a husband and wife have in the home. I think scripture makes it clear what the roles are of men and women in the church. That doesn't mean that men are exhaulted or that women are lesser. It just means that God has blessed each sex with a different role or function. We should rejoice over what God has given us rather than grouse about it.

  24. Publius,

    I have no reason to lie about the stories I was told by my OPC friends. I believe lying is a sin and try really hard to obey the ten commandments. I think you don't really know what Christian Egalitarianism is. Even wikipedia has a good synopsis if you are interested in learning more.

    I do rejoice in being a woman. Even though I
    really like men, I have never wanted to be one.

    Obviously men and women are different. But the creation of a hierarchy of authority based on gender is demeaning and dangerous to women.

    I think I have taken up enough space on Ruth's blog with my comments. You and I will obviously not come to an agreement on this issue here.

    God bless you.

  25. I've been to plenty of OPC churches in my day and they're anything but legalistic. I called them tame earlier, tame might even be to strong of a word for the OPC.

    If what your friends told you is accurate, I dare say it's an example of improper application of scripture by the church rather than a condemnation of the family structure God created. Fallen mankind is not immune from committing sin when applying God's word to our daily lives nor is fallen mankind immune from improperly counseling people from positions within the church.

    We'll agree to disagree.

  26. Ah Bill's wonderful Umbrella of Protection--making it impossible for anyone but your earthly father to hear what your heavenly Father wills for you! Glad your brother saved you from slaving away in the Gothard Gulag Archipelago .

  27. Ruth- your discernment was God given, I am so sad your family fought that!

    My family went to Gothard's Seminiars when I was a teen (early 1980's). I never saw the umbrella taught as only one's dad being able to hear what God says, and when I told my dad that I believed that God called me to be a missionary he was thrilled rather than threatened. Is this control-thing a more recent development?

    The reason I've happened upon this and other blogs is that a friend who went to Russia the same time I did was under the wings of Gothard's organization. She recently linked to Quivering Daughters and I've link-surfed from there to here.

    The one time I visited their Moscow compound I think I shocked many of their folks. Here I was, a single woman living alone in Moscow, traveling on public transport, alone, after dark! They protected the young ladies with them as if they were junior highschoolers in a camp dormitory. It was appealing and off-putting all at once.

    In contrast, I missed the shelter of living in my parents' home, but I always felt sheilded by my dad's prayers and support, even half-way around the world.

    My take on the Christian family structure is based in scripture (Proverbs 31 among others) but I like to illustrate it from pop-culture.

    I married a younger Christian who was unsure about being the spiritual head of the home. I told him that it was like Star Trek.

    Captain Kirk was in charge, but he didn't lord it over anyone. He knew what his limits were and what the strength of his officers were. A foolish captain would ignore the advice of his science officer simply because of ranking. As the older Christian, I would be the faith officer and first mate. I would inform, he would decide. We are equals, but one must lead so he does. Six years in and I would say it's going well.


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